Quality flight training on course
In an industry that requires a regular supply of quality private and airline-ready commercial pilots, Air Gold Coast is providing a reliable and efficient service to meet the demand.
Air Gold Coast is one of Australia’s longest-operating general aviation companies, originally established in 1968 to service the aircraft maintenance industry.
In 2001, the business expanded to include flight training, which was later followed by the addition of aircraft charter services.
CEO Peter Long said the company identified a market opportunity to provide quality flight training with the same level of customer service as the maintenance division.
“It took 12 months of planning and hard work to gain the required approvals, infrastructure and human resources to get the flight school up and running,” he said.
“The flight training addition was a multi-million dollar exercise, but aircraft maintenance support allowed the flight school to concentrate on managing training aircraft and asset growth.”
Careful planning resulted in the flight training school proving to be a worthwhile investment that exceeded anticipated demand and rapidly grew beyond initial predictions.
“Having a quality brand behind the company and employing respected flying staff, the business quickly grew to the point of needing a second flight instructor within six weeks of opening,” Long said.
“Revenue from the first year of flight school was double the amount we had forecast.”
The aircraft charter division was introduced in 2013 primarily to support a niche market and also provide flight instructors the opportunity of ‘real world’ commercial charter flying experience to apply in their commercial pilot training teaching.
International flight plan
Air Gold Coast recognises the importance of the international market, where there are – in some cases – greater opportunities than Australia is able to provide and where the company has been able to mature as a training provider on the world stage.
Most of the current flight training students are domestic, a result of the Australian dollar in recent years making Australia less competitive against other international providers, Long said.
“The quality of training in Australia is attractive but the cost is prohibitive, with the added challenge that English language presents for some countries and students,” he said.
“Nevertheless, the emerging shortage of worldwide airline pilots, especially in the Asia-Pacific region because of the rise of low-cost carriers, means that Australia is being considered as a solution for meeting the pilot shortfall.”
The Asia-Pacific region is increasingly offering opportunities for the provision of flight training, leading to Air Gold Coast attending and contributing to an expert panel at the Indonesian Aviation Education and Training Conference in 2016 in Jakarta.
“Indonesia is an emerging economy that is dependent on air travel, so the potential for Australian-Indonesian co-operation in the area of quality flight training is enormous,” Long said.
“In addition, Air Gold Coast has had a number of excellent self-sponsored students from Singapore, and we have recently secured a flight training agreement in Japan with the All Nippon Airways subsidiary, Peach Aviation.”
Most business for the company’s maintenance division is domestic, with the addition of servicing provided to new aircraft arriving in Australia, primarily from the USA; a small percentage of business in the charter division deals with international visitors vacationing in Australia.
Preparing for take off
Air Gold Coast has been an EMDG recipient five times since 2013, receiving more than $60,000 in grant funding for marketing visits, trade fairs and advertising in the Asia-Pacific region and the USA.
Mr Long said he discovered the EMDG scheme on the Austrade website and that Air Gold Coast had chosen to engage a consultant to manage its application process.
“The most important thing for us was having the reassurance from a consultant of what we were able and not able to claim, and that the required supporting documentation was in place,” he said.
Business is growing at about 10 per cent each year, with the greatest area of expansion in the international market, and the company has almost doubled its number of staff since 2013.
Air Gold Coast is continuing to look for additional business units to complement and expand existing capability, with one possibility being a second training facility.
“The company’s vision is to grow into a world-leading aviation training company, providing domestic and international students with training and qualifications that enable them to secure positions in the industry anywhere in the world,” Long said.
“After 28 years with the company I still find my role rewarding, thanks to a great work environment and culture, and the feeling of accomplishment from producing qualified aviators,” he said.
“To see young people present on day one for flight training, embarking on a career, graduating then gaining employment is extremely rewarding.”
Air Gold Coast graduates quality private and airline-ready commercial pilots for the aviation industry. Image courtesy of Air Gold Coast